Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Orange Juice from A Darling Daughter

A post from my daughter having a bit of fun in the school holidays:

I have always had an interest in cooking, especially in making drinks. When we are on holidays at the beach, I get out the blender, mangoes, ice and some juice and make some mango frappes. Then my mum puts some other stuff in them and gives them to grown-ups. She calls them 'daiquiris'. I also make smoothies and chocolate drinks.

I was sitting on the couch wrapped in a blanket, watching TV and I felt like doing something so I went over to the fruit bowl to see three oranges. I decided I was going to make some freshly squeezed orange juice. My mum helped me get out the right tools but I did the rest (it wasn't very hard). I squeezed the oranges out and drained out all the pulp and put the juice in a glass. Then I went out into the garden to take the photos.

I was quite proud of my juice because I made it all by hand. I really want to keep cooking and maybe one day I will get my own blog or something along those lines. This juice is very simple an mainstream but when you perfect it, it is a very delicious drink. I might be cooking some more in the holidays so stay tuned.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Perfection Pound Cake

Simplicity is often a great virtue in itself, but it takes a certain amount of confidence to opt for something basic and unadorned. This cake made me reflect on the pleasure of not decorating, not icing and not flavouring. The pleasure of just letting a cake be.... It has a really wonderful flavour, and would lend itself to being paired with all sorts of toppings. But perhaps it is better to just appreciate it as is? Unfortunately it disappeared too quickly for much experimenting, so I can't really tell you.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's baking bible "Baking: From My Home To Yours". I followed her recipe very closely as experience thus far has shown that her cookbook and her advice is worth following. At Dorie's suggestion, I bought the best butter I could find. I then followed her recipe to the letter, especially the room temperature ingredients and the mixing times. I also used the foil tent for the last 20 mins to stop the top getting too dry. I don't have an insulated baking sheet, so my one eccentricity in this recipe was placing the loaf tin on a folded section from the Sydney Morning Herald. Don't worry - I kept a close watch for any fire risk! This was a bit of a tribute to my non-baking grandmother (I also had a baking grandmother) who once gave me a fruit cake recipe that began: "Line tin with 3 sheets of the Sydney Morning Herald...". I am not sure whether the choice of the Herald impacted on the flavour of this cake, but I would definitely make it again.

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan or an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two regular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy, a full 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater and reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each egg goes in. As you’re working, scrape down the bowl and beater often. Mix in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until it is incorporated - don’t overmix. In fact, you might want to fold in the last of the flour, or even all of it, by hand with a rubber spatula. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top.

Put the cake into the oven to bake, and check on it after about 45 minutes. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. If you’re using a 9×5 pan, you’ll need to bake the cake for 70 to 75 minutes; the smaller pan needs about 90 minutes. The cake is properly baked when a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, transfer the pan to a rack and let rest for 30 minutes.
Run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan and turn the cake out, then turn it right side up on the rack and cool to room temperature.

Storing:Wrapped well, the cake will keep for 5 to 7 days at room temperature (stale cake is great toasted) or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Parmesan Chicken aka Super-Fantastic Chicken Schnitzel

When I joined Barefoot Bloggers, the group had already completed a few recipes, one of which was for Parmesan Chicken, a more sophisticated take on chicken schnitzel. Last week, I decided to see how the Ina Garten parmesan chicken recipe stacked up against my standard version. Chicken schnitzel is a very common meal around here, especially when the kids get their pick for dinner. They love it; their friends love it - (has anyone else noticed the friends are often a lot harder to please than your own kids?). Schnitzel leftovers are great in sandwiches - what else could you ask for?

This recipe was a winner. It was not really any trickier than my standard version but much tastier. In the past, I haven't usually bothered pounding the chicken breasts flat, but it is worth doing because it makes such a difference in getting the chicken cooked before the crumb burns (and it is therapeutic after a long day!). Because of the size of my pan, I needed to cut the fillets in half or I would not have been able to cook them comfortably. The parmesan in the crumb gives an extra tastiness but is not overpowering and was happily eaten by a generally anti-cheese child. The dressing and salad are also delicious and the combination is really good. The dressing cuts the richness of the chicken - yum! Considering Ina's very generous portions, I halved the recipe, and that still gave us enough for three for dinner, plus four sandwiches of leftovers.

Parmesan Chicken
serves 6

4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 extra-large eggs1 tablespoon water
1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil
Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan.
Lemon Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Goats Cheese Souffles - Or How To Wow Without Too Much Trouble

The mere mention of the word "souffle" can make even the most competent chef feel a bit anxious, let alone the untrained masses who are creating meals every day. Many people steer away from even trying to make a souffle for this reason. The positive of this is that if you deliver a good souffle to the table, people are amazed and impressed, and their response will make you feel like you should be taking a bow on the stage of the Opera House. This recipe is easy, although there are quite a few steps, but the real joy of it is that the souffles are cooked ahead of time and then reheated just before serving. There is no need to feel any pressure about whether or not they will fall, (and you can also get away with owning only half a dozen moulds but cooking for a much larger group by doing the baking in batches). It also looks and tastes elegant, an adjective that applies all too rarely to my cooking! In other words, it is a fantastic dinner party dish.

I made these souffles during the week because I was planning to enter the Foodie Blog Roll Joust. Each month, three ingredients are selected and it is up to the entrants to create a meal that marries the three. This month, the ingredients are fennel, dairy and parsley, and I immediately thought of making a fennel and goats cheese souffle, with either a parsley emulsion or parsley crackers (hadn't really worked that bit out). Having made the souffles, I was looking at the entries for the joust so far, and found (to my horror!!!!) that someone had entered a fennel and goats cheese souffle the day before. Check out Foodycat's beautiful souffle here. While I haven't been watching these jousts for long, I am pretty sure that entering the same meal as someone else would be a little against the spirit of the competition. So here is my non-competition fennel and goats cheese souffle. If you don't like fennel, substitute onion to infuse the milk (although the fennel is a very mild flavour in this souffle).

Fennel and Goats Cheese Souffles (Makes 4)
adapted from "Feedback" by Michele Scamps

150 ml milk
1 fennel bulb chopped, plus reserve the leafy fronds and finely chop
40g butter
40g flour
200g goats cheese, chopped
3 eggs, separated, whites stiffly beaten
2 tbls shallots (green onions chopped)
100ml cream
50g parmesan

Preheat oven to 220C. Butter the moulds well. Place the milk and chopped fennel bulb in a small saucepan and heat gently for 10 mins. Melt the butter in another saucepan and add the flour, stir until it is a smooth paste and cook for 1 minute. Take off the heat, then strain the milk mixture into the butter and flour, and discard the fennel. Whisk quickly to get rid of lumps - the consistency you want is smooth and thick. Once it is smooth, add the goats cheese and stir in well. Add the yolks, shallots, chopped fennel fronds and season to taste. Allow the mixture to cool, then add the stiffly beaten egg whites, folding them in as gently as possible.

Spoon the mixture into moulds, filling them up to about 3/4 full. Place the moulds in a baking dish, then pour hot water into the baking dish to make a bain marie. Place carefully in the oven. Bake for 15-20 mins - until the souffles feel puffed and golden. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool a little. Once the moulds are cool enough to be handled, run a knife around the edge of each souffle and gently ease them out of their moulds onto a tray. If the bottom stays stuck in the mould, scoop it out with a spoon and pop it back on top. The souffles can be made to this point a day ahead, and kept in the fridge in an airtight container.

To serve, heat the oven to 220C. Spoon a little cream over each souffle and sprinkle with some parmesan. Cook for 10 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve immediately.

In the picture I have served it on some sauteed fennel and parsley. (Slice two large fennel bulbs thinly, then sautee in 2 tbls olive oil for 15 minutes over medium heat until soft and starting to go golden at the edges. Stir in 2 tbls chopped continental parsely and serve).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup For The Barefoot Bloggers

This week's Barefoot Blogger challenge had me on firmer ground than the mac 'n' cheese or the turnover challenges - wild mushroom soup is something I know and love and have prepared many times before. In fact it is one of my favourite dinner party soups so I felt confident that this was going to go well.

The challenge was chosen by Chelle of Brown-Eyed Baker, and promised to be a nice change from some of the other Barefoot cooking we have been doing. Unfortunately (sorry Chelle), I wound up having a few unexpected issues with the recipe:
- sadly I couldn't find cremini or porcini mushrooms fresh around here (you usually only see them dried and they cost about the same as a tank of petrol), so I substituted swiss brown mushrooms for the cremini.
-my mushrooms also came caked in a little mud, and since I have had gritty mushroom soup before (not something that I would recommend), I disregarded the first instruction and rinsed them under running water. Unfortunately, I think that having the wrong mushrooms and then rinsing may have impacted the flavour of the soup.
- I used a lot less butter (2 tbls) in cooking the leeks than Ina recommends, but I think this was OK - the leeks and mushrooms all cooked and browned nicely.
- I used only half the cream Ina recommends - I was worried the soup's flavour would be completely overwhelmed by the cream unless I held back a little.
- While I followed the recipe, I generally don't like to thicken soups with flour, and with so much cream in the recipe, I suspect the soup would have quite thick without the flour.
- Once I had finished cooking, my soup had a little bit of oil rising to the surface. I tried to skim this off but could not get rid of all of it. You can see it around the edge of the bowl in the photo - not sure what I did wrong there??

Enough moaning - the flavour of the soup was good, and darling husband who loves cream of mushroom soup declared that it was "delish". I, however, will be sticking to my favourite recipe for mushroom soup which is similar to Ina's but with a lot less cream. You can see how the other members of the Barefoot Bloggers went here.

Wild Mushroom Soup
from The Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten

150g fresh shiitake mushrooms
150g fresh portobello mushrooms
150g fresh cremini (or porcini) mushrooms
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1/4 pound (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme plus 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves, divided
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup half-and-half (half milk and half cream)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Clean the mushrooms by wiping them with a dry paper towel. Don't wash them! Separate the stems, trim off any bad parts, and coarsely chop the stems. Slice the mushroom caps 1/4-inch thick and, if they are too big, cut them into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

To make the stock, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot. Add the chopped mushroom stems, the onion, carrot, the sprig of thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add 6 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid. You should have about 4 1/2 cups of stock. If not, add some water.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the remaining 125g of butter and add the leeks. Cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the leeks begin to brown. Add the sliced mushroom caps and cook for 10 minutes, or until they are browned and tender. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir for another minute, scraping the bottom of the pot. Add the mushroom stock, minced thyme leaves, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the half-and-half, cream, and parsley, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and heat through but do not boil. Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Think Pink Cupcakes

Today's recipe is brought to you by the elder darling daughter. She decided to whip up a batch of cupcakes to take to school as part of an extension project she is doing. I take complete pleasure in seeing my children cooking (apart from when they wander off and leave the kitchen looking like it has just been ransacked by feral animals after a sugar fix). Without being too sentimental, it makes me feel that I have actually passed on a skill to them that will be useful for their whole lives and that they will hopefully pass on too. And making cupcakes or biscuits is very satisfying to kids because generally it is pretty quick and the results are so pretty. (She took the picture too!)

These cupcakes were made almost entirely without my assistance - this is a great recipe for kids to attempt single handed. Everything goes into the mixer bowl together for the cake, so there is no tricky procedure to follow. The only slightly delicate step is tinting the icing, but really, if the kids were heavy-handed and you wound up with shocking pink icing, that would be fine too. The recipe comes from a gorgeous book called "500 Cupcakes" by Fergal Connelly, which is a really delightful book to thumb through - the pictures and ideas are wonderful.

Think Pink Cupcakes
adapted from "500 Cupcakes" by Fergal Connelly
225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 egs
1 tsp vanilla essence
375g icing sugar, sifted
225g unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
Pink food colouring
Silver balls
Preheat the oven to 175C. Line cupcake tins with 18 baking cases. Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth and pale, 2-3 mins. Spoon the batter into the cases. Bake for 20 mins. Remove from the oven and cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.
To make the icing, cream the sugar, butter and salt with the whisk attachment in a mixer until smooth. Add a few drops of colouring, mix well and continue until you are happy with the colour of the icing. Pipe the icing onto the cakes and sprinkle with silver balls.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Asian Pickled Cabbage - An Easy Side Dish

Many Chinese restaurants offer a little bowl of pickled cabbage for you to nibble on at the beginning of your meal. Usually made with white cabbage, it is a tasty although not especially beautiful note to start a meal. Often it has a sprinkling of chilli or ginger in with it to lend a bit more flavour. This side dish is basically a prettier interpretation of the same thing. Red cabbage is so visually appealing that I love to use it for everything from the bowl for a dip on a crudite platter to a bright addition to a stir fry. In this dish it is the basis for a lovely bright combination of flavours. In my opinion, this side is so good-looking that it will really make any dish you partner with it look more glamorous, and even better, it keeps well in the fridge.
Pickled Red Cabbage
adapted from "Belinda Jeffrey's 100 Favourite Recipes"
1 small head of red cabbage
1 cup rice vinegar
1 tbl salt
1 cup sugar
6-7 "coins" of ginger, finely chopped
2 birds eye chillies, seeded and finely chopped
sesame seeds for garnish

Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible to create lots of long thin strips. Salt it and allow to drain in a colander for at least 1 hour. Mix the remaining ingredients until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cabbage. Refrigerate overnight, tossing the salad occasionally so all of it stays moist with the pickling liquid. The longer you leave it, the less crunchy the cabbage becomes. The salad is delicious for at least a week after you make it (if it lasts that long).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lime Panacotta For A Weekend Away

I love having weekends away with friends and family: the anticipation and the planning and then lots of lovely unstructured time together. And as much as I love cooking, the last place I want to be is in the kitchen when I could be hanging out with my favourite people. The solution is to do as much of the cooking ahead of time, so we all get to laze around while we are together. It also means that I get to design the menu solo, something I really love to do. So much fun is in the anticipation!

This lime panacotta struck me as a great choice for a spring evening away with friends. From Gordon Ramsey Makes It Easy, it requires few ingredients, is easy to make ahead of time, transports well, and tastes good too. Gordon Ramsey seems to be the man of the moment as far as cooking goes in Australia at the moment, with even K-mart stocking his recipe books by the dozens. He also turns up on TV nearly every night shouting at some poor kitchen ingenue. And while I don't like the aggression of his TV persona, there is no doubt that this chef knows his way around food, and his recipe books are well-written and easy to follow. I wish that I could say this about all recipe books - after all there is no point in the chef knowing what he is doing if the recipe is incomprehensible to the rest of us!

This recipe has a lovely flavour, although next time I make it, I think I will bruise the mint leaves first to extract a bit more flavour from them. I also left out the tequila (didn't have any and forgot to buy it). Also, the pannacotta is quite firm - next time I will reduce the amount of gelatine a little as I prefer something with a bit more wobble.

Lime Panacotta Infused With Mint
adapted from "Gordon Ramsey Makes It easy" by Gordon Ramsey
Serves 6
600ml double cream
150ml milk
8 mint leaves
4 sheets leaf gelatine
60g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 3 limes
1 1/2 tbsp tequila
lime segments to decorate

Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan. Add the mint, then bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes or until reduced by about 1/3. Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 5 mins to soften. Strain the cream mixture into a bowl and stir in the sugar, lime zest and tequila. Drain the gelatine and squeeze out any excess water, then stir into the hot cream mixture until it is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into six dariole moulds and allow to cool before putting them in the fridge to set completely (2-3 hours). To remove the panacotta from the moulds, run a palette knife around the edge, then gently ease out each pannacotta. Decorate with lime and serve.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Aussie Apple Turnovers - A Barefoot Challenge

This week's Barefoot Challenge was a delight from beginning to end! I had never made (or even eaten) turnovers before now, but I loved the thought of doing something with Granny Smith apples. In my opinion, Granny Smiths are the best apples - a beautiful green, they manage to be tart, sweet and crunchy all at the same time. My fruit bowl is rarely without them. The recipe was also easy, quick and delicious. I used pre-rolled sheets of pastry, which made the process very quick. I loved the idea of using orange juice to stop the apple flesh browning (in other apple recipes I have used lemon juice, but orange juice is definitely a better choice). My only issue was that I couldn't find dried cherries so left them out. I also halved the recipe, which, in true Ina-fashion still made eight turnovers. The end result was thoroughly enjoyed warm with double cream, and will definitely be made again.

I have also done a little research for any of you that might be interested. Unknown to many, the Granny Smith is an Australian apple, thrown up originally as a chance cross-fertilisation in the Sydney apple orchard of Maria (Granny) Smith. This happened in 1868 possibly as an unplanned cross between French crab apples and Rome Beauty apples. After the death of Granny Smith in 1870, local orchardists continued to cultivate the Granny Smith apple, eventually commercialising and exporting it. Ryde Council (not far from here) still has a Granny Smith festival in October every year.

This week's Barefoot Bloggers challenge was a bonus chosen by Anne at Anne Strawberry. Thanks Anne - what a great choice. Take a look at what everyone else did here.

adapted from The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network

1 tsp grated orange zest
3 tbls freshly squeezed orange juice
600g Granny Smith apples (3 apples)
3 tablespoons dried cherries
3 tablespoons sugar,
Demerara sugar to sprinkle on top
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch kosher salt
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 200C. Combine the orange zest and orange juice in a bowl. Peel, quarter, and core the apples and then cut them in 2cm dice. Immediately toss the apples with the zest and juice to prevent them from turning brown. Add the cherries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Lightly flour a board. Lay on it the puff pastry sheets. Cut each sheet into 4 smaller squares and keep chilled until ready to use. Brush the edges of each square with the egg wash and neatly place about 1/3 cup of the apple mixture on half of the square. Fold the pastry diagonally over the apple mixture and seal by pressing the edges with a fork. Transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush the top with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, make 2 small slits, and bake for 20 minutes, until browned and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thin and Crisp Choc-Chip Cookies - My Favourites

Choc-chip cookies is probably the recipe I bake most regularly (in common with the rest of the world I'm sure). I can't remember when it started, but now, every time the kids have a school event, a party, or just need to take a treat to friend's house, I make another batch. It happens often enough that I now keep choc-chips permanently in my pantry. And there is now some discussion in my house about which recipe I should use - see previous post here.

The recipe I started with was from original Silver Palate cookbook, and I have used it so often that the spine of the book has broken, the page has fallen out, and it flaps around the binding, stained and dog-eared. The recipe gives two options - one for giant cookies, and one for small cookies, altering the dough scooped and baking temperature depending on what you are after. My personal preference is for small cookies, and these ones come out thin and crisp-ish. As a general rule, I don't like cookies and muffins that are as big as your head, and I prefer crisp to moist. And eating smaller cookies lets you have a couple, which in turn feels indulgent without actually consuming anywhere near as much wickedness as is in one giant cookie. Do you agree? How do you prefer your cookies?

Chocolate Chip Cookies
from The Silver Palate Cookbook
250g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bi-carb of soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet choc chips
Preheat oven to 160C for giant cookies or 180C for normal cookies. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Cream butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix in well. Sift dry ingredients and stir into the butter mixture until completely combined. Add chocolate chips to the batter (it will be very heavy and thick by now).
If you are making giant cookies, scoop out the batter with an ice cream scoop and flatten to about 12 cm. If you are making normal cookies, just use a heaped teaspoon of batter. Bake 15-17 mins for giant cookies. Bake 8-10 mins for ordinary cookies. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 mins then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 25 giant or about 80 normal cookies.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spring: Pea and Mint Salad with Pistachios and Fetta

Gerard Manley Hopkins said it best: "Nothing is so beautiful as spring". Warmth is returning, the gardens are sprouting, jasmine appears in the evening breezes. Relief is written all over the faces of people in the street. Sydney is never at its best during winter. The houses aren't heated properly, no one has the right clothes and we all suffer miserably through what is usually a month at the most of really cold weather. But when one icy month stretches to three or four as it did this year, the malaise can become extreme.

But now it feels like winter is finally leaving us. And salad days are returning. One of my darling besties introduced me to this salad, and it strikes me as a wonderful way to greet the newly warmer weather. Peas and mint are as classic as a Chanel suit, but this salad jazzes them up a little with fetta, pistachios and miniature Asian greens as well. From our cafe maestro Bill Granger, my favourite part of this salad is the cooked onion in the dressing, a softer flavour than usual choices such as green onions or chives would produce. As Hopkins would say: "What is all this juice and all this joy?A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning."

PS Apologies to people who are not keen on poetry - you can see the weather has gone to my head!

Pea Mint and Fetta Salad

200g fresh peas
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tsp seed mustard
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
35g shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
large handful fresh mint leaves
50g miniature Asian greens or snow pea sprouts (or baby English spinach)
75g feta cheese, crumbled

Blanch the peas in boiling water until they are just tender and bright green. Refresh immediately under cold water, until they do not feel hot any more. Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of the oil and cook the onion, stirring, for five minutes, or until it is soft.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, remaining olive oil, vinegar and honey and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Mix the onion, peas and pistachios in a salad bowl and pour the dressing over the top. Add the mint and salad leaves and gently toss. Sprinkle with feta to serve.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chicken with Yellow Rice from a Homecook Hero

Despite my new blogging self, underneath it all I am an old fashioned girl who still gets a newspaper delivered hard copy every day. I love everything about the paper, especially that I can rip things out like recipes, and my favourite ripping day is Tuesday when the Sydney Morning Herald publishes its food section, Good Living. It is full of food and foodie news with restaurant openings and closings, reviews, new products, feature articles, a wine column, as well as a section called Homecook Hero. Each week, the Homecook Hero features a non-professional cook who has been nominated by friends and family for their talent and passion for food. Often they are migrants with interesting back stories and I love to see them looking so proud as they share their most special recipe with the world.

This Homecook Hero recipe is from a Thai immigrant called Roong Smithisumpun, and appealed to me because the story in Good Living talked about how the local kids in the Oatley West football team all loved it. One of my current missions is to get my children eating curry, and I thought that this sounded like a good, gentle one to start with. I have now made this dish half a dozen times, and my mission appears successful: the kids like it, and even better, the adults do too.

Khao mok gai (Chicken with yellow rice)

from Good Living, Sydney Morning Herald, March 6th 2007

500g chicken breast fillets (I used thigh fillets because they are more tender)
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup yoghurt
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup butter (I halved this and it was fine)
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
350g jasmine rice
1 tsp curry powder (for the rice)

Spice mix
1 tsp roasted coriander seeds *
1/2 tsp roasted cumin seeds *
¼ tsp turmeric
A pinch of pepper
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt

For the spice mix: Grind the spice grind ingredients together in a mortar and pestle.
Cut the chicken into large chunks and place in a bowl with the spice mix plus the ginger, garlic and yoghurt. Stir and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 180C. Heat the oil and butter in a wok. Brown the chicken. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, reserving the oil. Cook for 15 minutes or until done. Set aside.

Put the rice in salted water, and bring to the boil. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low and allow the pot to simmer until the rice is cooked (about 15 minutes). Reheat the reserved oil, stir in the cooked rice with the curry powder and mix well. Transfer half the rice to a large non-stick saucepan, then place half the chicken on top. Do another layer of rice and chicken then pour over the chicken's cooking juices. Warm very gently for 10-15 minutes with the lid on before serving.

* To roast the seeds, heat in a dry pan and until aromatic and slightly browned.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Southern Fried Chicken - The Best Finger Food

I can still remember clearly going to KFC (or Kentucky Fried Chicken as it was then) as a treat when I was a kid. These were the days before McDonalds arrived in Australia, when takeaway options tended to be the local fish and chip shop, the corner shop selling pies, sausage rolls and hamburgers (always served with a slice of beetroot), or shiny, glamorous, airconditioned KFC. We were all very impressed by the idea of the secret herbs and spices, imagining all sorts of exotic combinations, and loved the idea that everyone got their own little box of food. Times have certainly changed. But although KFC no longer holds any allure for me, every now and then I like the wickedness of southern fried chicken.

I found this recipe in the June 2004 copy of Everyday Food, a Martha Stewart food mag, that is sporadically available in Australia. The cover featured a very generous basket of chicken, and I bought it immediately (a really great example of how much impact a cover shot can have); that shot still sits on the recipe for this chicken on their website here. I adapted the recipe slightly, halving the quantities, and using only legs, as I feel that dark meat does not become dry or tough with the high heat of frying, in the way white meat can. I also used corn-fed chicken, which is very tender, but also explains why the flesh has a slightly yellow glow. The one trick to this recipe is keeping the oil at a good temperature. If you have a deep fry thermometer, you need it to be at about 180C. If you don't, just keep an eye on your chicken, you want it to sizzle, but not to brown too quickly or the outside will be burning before you cook through to the inside. I promise it is not hard if you watch it closely. You won't be surprised to hear that this chicken was wolfed down in my house.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
adapted from Everyday Food, June 2004
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
8 chicken legs
1 1/2 cups flour
4 cups vegetable oil
Combine buttermilk with 1/2 tbl salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne and the chicken. Refrigerate for up to 48 hours. Whisk flour with remaining salt and cayenne. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Heat oil in a skillet until a pinch of flour sizzles when dropped in. Carefully add the chicken in batches. Do not drop in the oil (or the oil will splash back at you - ouch). Do not overcrowd the chicken as you will drop the temperature of the oil and instead of crispy chicken you will get oily soggy chicken. Cook 10 mins on each side, until golden brown.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Veal Osso Buco - Good and Slow

Osso buco is one of those meals that is really enjoying a surge of popularity. Through the winter months, I have been hard-pressed to find an upscale cafe or restaurant not offering this delicious dish as a special. It is warm and rich and tender. It is also surprisingly easy to make as long as you are not in a rush. As i have been thinking about it this morning, I have decided that it is the absolute diametric opposite of a quarter pounder, if foods have opposites. If you are thinking about making this, my best suggestion is do it on the weekend or on a day when you have a few chores around the house so you can just let it slowly simmer away. You will be rewarded with a sensational dinner. It also thanks you for letting it sit for a day or two in the fridge, with even richer more developed flavours.

The literal translation of "osso buco" means bone with a hole in it (thanks Wiki), and it is usually made with veal shanks, that have been cut horizontally across the bone. Traditionally it is served with a gremolata on top, but instead, my recipe works some orange zest into the sauce, so you get some lovely citrus background flavours. The long slow cooking intensifies all the tastes resulting in a sauce that is so good, we freeze the leftovers to use on other dishes or pasta. If you are that way inclined, the marrow from the bones is great as well. I would love to give credit for the source of this recipe, but I cut it out of a magazine years ago (decades even?) and stuck it into one of my collection of recipe scrapbooks, without thinking about including any attribution. Apologies and kudos to whoever first made this osso buco.
Osso Buco
1.5 kg veal shanks, cut horizontally into 5cm pieces
Plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 tbls olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
500ml red wine
1 litre chicken stock
6 egg tomatoes, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
200 ml veal glace or veal stock (optional as this is sometimes hard to get and / or expensive, but it really is worth it in the end).
zested rind of 1 orange
Toss osso buco in flour. Heat oil in a large saucepan, then brown the osso buco in batches until it is nice and golden on both sides. Remove from pot. Add onion, garlic and carrot to the pot and cook over medium heat for 5-8 mins until golden (add more oil if you need to). Add red wine, bring to the boil then stir to release any yummy caramelized pieces from the bottom of the pan (lots and lots of flavour in those pieces!). Return osso buco to the pan with remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Cover and cook in the oven at 180C for 2 1/2 hours, or until meat is very tender and starting to fall off the bone.
Very carefully lift the osso buco out of the pot (if you are not careful the meat will come off the bone - not a disaster if it happens but it looks prettier if it is still on the bone - not sure "prettier" is the right word but you know what I mean!). Discard the bay leaves then process the sauce in a blender until smooth, and then push it through a strainer to make it even smoother (skip this if you can't be bothered - your sauce will be less silky but will taste just as good.) If your sauce is too runny, put it back in the pot and reduce it until you are happy with the consistency. Otherwise, return sauce and osso buco to the pot and warm through. Serve with pasta, potatoes, rice or bread - anything to mop up the sauce!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Grown-up Mac 'n' Cheese

I am a convert! I finally see the light! Macaroni and cheese has never been a dish that has really appealed to me. Too heavy, too stodgy, too fattening, just too too too.... Friends, especially those that had lived in the US, were taken with it, but not me. I always considered it an American classic, in the way that classics from other countries will sometimes never make sense to you. (I understand these cultural divides, after all I am a girl that loves Vegemite, a classic that doesn't travel if ever there was one). I am also deeply suspicious of boxed pre-made pasta and sauce combos, and that was mostly where I saw mac 'n' cheese.

However, in the spirit of Barefoot Blogging, I was going to give it my best shot. My only compromise - I halved the ingredients. With the inclusion of blue cheese, the kids were never going to eat it, so I thought making it for one would probably be loads for my husband and I. I also added a little cayenne pepper to the flour, and the cheddar I chose was studded with red chilli, for a little bit of extra heat in the dish. The recipe was pretty simple, and I would absolutely make it again. My only (very small) quibble was the washing up. This recipe involved a remarkably large number of my pots and pans. At last count, 1 oven tray; 1 large pasta pot; 1 small saucepan; 1 medium saucepan; 1 whisk; 1 grater; 1 chopping board; 1 food processor; 1 gratin dish. All worth it.

This week's Barefoot Bloggers challenge was brilliantly chosen by Heather of Randomosity and The Girl. Thanks Heather - you have opened up a whole new dish for me. You can see what the other Barefoot Bloggers have been up to here.

Grown Up Mac and Cheese
adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Home Comforts Episode

60 g bacon
1 cup elbow macaroni
3/4 cup milk
1 tbl unsalted butter
2 tbls flour
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
60g Gruyere cheese, grated
45g extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (I used one with red chilli in it)
30g Gorgonzola, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
1 slice white sandwich bread, crusts removed
1 tbl freshly chopped basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven - there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Add the macaroni to a pot of boiling salted water and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into a gratin dishes.

Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Salmon Burgers For Days When You Think You Have Nothing In The Cupboard

At the moment I feel like my life is being lived with the fast forward button jammed down. How is it already September? Why do I have days like today, when I feel like I am in a relay race where I run from A to B to C to D and so on until I collapse into bed when I reach Z? The problem with days like this is that not only is there no time to dash through the supermarket or butcher and gather something for the tribe, but there is no time to even reflect on what the tribe might like for dinner. Until of course, I am at home with two starving children and no inclination whatsoever to get back in the car and get some food.

Belinda Jeffrey to the rescue. I found this genius recipe in the "Belinda Jeffrey's 100 Favourite Recipes" cookbook, that I have referred to here before. The key ingredient is tinned salmon, which is one of those things that can be found in the back of most people's pantry, on even the most dire days. Mix in some mayonnaise to bind it together with some vegies and spices, roll patties in some bread crumbs, pan fry and serve. Children fed. Mother's sanity remains in tact. And the crowd cheers.

Red Salmon Burgers
adapted from Belinda Jeffrey's 101 Favourite Recipes

400g tinned salmon, well-drained and picked over to remove any skin or bones
2 green onions, chopped (you can substitute chives if you don't have)
3 tbls celery, finely chopped
2 tbls basil finely shredded
1/2 small red chilli (or to taste)
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
2-3 tbls of dry breadcrumbs
oil for cooking

Crumble the salmon into large flakes in a bowl. Add green onions, basil, celery, chilli, sauces, mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste. Stir gently then slowly add the breadcrumbs until the mixture is binding together. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes then divide it into four portions and shape each into a pattie. Place the patties on a plate and chill for at least 1/2 hour to firm them.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium low heat. Add the burgers and fry for five minutes on each side, until they are crisp and brown. Be careful when turning them so that the patties do not fall apart (I use two spatulas). Once browned on both sides, drain them on paper towel. Serve in a bun with some lettuce and extra mayonnaise if desired.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pine Nut Cake For Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day in Australia. The sun appeared for the first time in days, and it really was a sparkling Sydney day for all the Dads out celebrating with their families. Darling husband awoke to a gift he chose himself (very hard for someone to surprise you with shoes), and the usual motley collection of cards and little gifts from the two darling girls. And in the evening, with my father and brother over for dinner, I got the chance to spoil him and a couple of my other favourite fathers.

Given that the weather still remains fairly stubbornly wintry, I decided to make some osso bucco (recipe to come later in the week), with a lovely pea and mint salad, and a potato bake. The crowing glory however was the pine nut cake that I made for dessert. Darling husband loves pine nuts, but we usually have them in savoury meals or sprinkled over salads. This cake combined a base that was like a dense meringue, with the pinenut topping and an orange juice glaze. Really good. Really really good. And if you are prepared to ignore the sugar content, the cake itself had no butter nor oil, or even an egg yolk. That makes it nearly virtuous if you ask me, or at least that is the story I will be sticking to. The recipe comes from a cookbook put out by Marie Claire Magazine called "Taste 101: Inspire, Excite, Delight". While it is no longer in shops, I saw a couple of copies on ebay. This is one of those wonderful cookbooks that are dotted with extra ideas or recipes in the margins, that really inspire you to do more with your cooking.
Nut Cake with Orange Syrup
adapted from "Marie Claire: Taste 101"
200g almond meal
100g pure icing sugar
3 egg whites from large eggs (I used 4 from medium eggs)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
70g pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup water
125g caster sugar
double cream
Preheat the oven to 160C, then grease a square 20cm x 20cm cake tin. Press baking paper into the tin, to line the bottom and sides of the tin, with sufficient overhang to help you remove the cake. Sift the icing sugar if it is lumpy, then stir in the almond meal in. Put aside.
Using a stand mixer, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Slowly tip in the sugar, continuing beating until the mixture is very thick and glossy, then add the vanilla. Fold half of the egg white mixture into the almond meal then tip all the almond meal mixture back into the remaining egg whites, folding until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin, spreading it out evenly, then sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Bake for 45 minutes.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup by combining the juice, water and sugar in a small pot. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted and the glaze is thickened.
Remove the cake from the oven, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes or so. Once cool, use the baking paper to lift the cake out of the tin, onto a rack. Serve the cake warm drizzled with the warm syrup, with some chilled slices of orange, and some cream if you would like it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Nursery Fish Pie For A Rainy Night

The weather this week has been abysmal. September started on Monday with one day that felt like Spring, a much-wanted gift for our first actual day of spring. After the coldest winter in 65 years, you could see everyone visibly relaxing to feel the warm weather was on its way. And then from Tuesday onwards it was all downhill; by yesterday it was gloomy, cold, rainy and revolting. Netball and football was cancelled and the malls of Sydney were packed with people hiding from the weather - pity the poor souls selling at farmer's markets yesterday. Weather like this makes me think of pies, and one of my favourites for the family is fish pie. I make a few different fish pies depending on who I am serving and how fancy I want to be. This fish pie is definitely not overly fancy - it is a good one dish meal for the family.
Some of my friends are squeamish about cooking fish, but I think that is a misplaced concern. Most fish is available already filleted, and cooks so quickly and easily, and as anyone who cooks it often will know: fresh fish doesn't smell fishy. This recipe comes from the Annabel Karmel "Baby and Toddler Meal Planner", but don't let that put you off. The whole family likes this pie, and it feels delicious, healthy and comforting. I have spoken of the Annabel Karmel books before. They were the first recipe books that I got for feeding my children once they started on solids. The books begin with suggestions for fruit and vegetable purees, before progressing onto recipes for older children. I always give these as gifts to new mothers.
Nursery Fish Pie
adapted from "The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner" by Annabel Karmel
600-700g perch fillet (or other mild white fish), skinned and boned
300ml milk
1 bay leaf
50g butter
2 tbl flour
4 tbl grated cheddar
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
100g frozen peas
a squeeze of lemon
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped
Cut the fish into pieces, then put it in a saucepan with the milk and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 10 minutes. While the fish is cooking prepare the mashed potato for the topping - boil the potato until it is tender then mash with butter and milk to taste. Season the mash.
Remove the fish from the milk, saving the milk, and discarding the bayleaf. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the flower and cook for a minute, stirring. Slowly add the milk to the flour, stirring and simmering gently until it is the consistency of a thick sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese until it is melted, then fold in the fish, boiled egg and peas. Add the lemon juice. Place the mixture into a pie dish and top with the mashed potato. Bake for 20 mins at 350C, then grill the top for a couple of minutes until it is crispy.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Jamie Oliver and Prosciutto-Wrapped Beef Fillet

I was tele-rouletting through the channels the other night when I came across Jamie Oliver doing some one-on-one coaching for a woman who was having some of her girlfriends over for lunch. He helped her design the menu, took her shopping for the produce and then gave her his number so she could phone with any queries as she made the meal. Then, inevitably, he turned up for dessert and flirting. I know Curtis Stone does much the same sort of thing in the US. How do I make this happen to me? Why are there are no TV chefs wandering around my local supermarket when I am looking confused and trying yet again to answer the eternal question*? I need help as much as the next person! Pick me! Pick me!

The sad reality is that the closest I am going to get to Jamie designing a menu for me, is cooking the meal that he made for the lady on his show. And it did look good, and it did seem easy. Unfortunately I was too caught up in my wonderings about TV chefs to pay attention to what he did with the beef, which then forced me to buy the cookbook in question ("Return of the Naked Chef " by Jamie Oliver). He's smart that Jamie Oliver, or at least smarter than me, it would appear. And I can tell you now, that whether or not you have Jamie Oliver in your kitchen or not, this is a simple recipe that looks quite dramatic presented whole to the table, and tastes good too. And if you know Jamie Oliver, would you mind sending him round?

* In case you were wondering, the eternal question is not "what is the meaning of life?", it is "what will I cook the family for dinner?"

Roasted Fillet of Beef Rolled In Herbs and Mushrooms and Wrapped In Prosciutto
adapted from "The Return of the Naked Chef" by Jamie Oliver

12 slices prosciutto

3 cloves garlic

200g mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with one clove garlic until cooked

900g fillet of beef, whole

Fresh chopped rosemary and thyme to taste

2 glasses red wine

Preheat your oven and baking sheet to 230C. Lay prosciutto out on a sheet of baking paper, each slice overlapping slightly, so that you have what looks like a giant sheet of prosciutto with no gaps in it. Spread the mushrooms along the length of the prosciutto. Season the beef fillet and roll it in herbs. Lay the seasoned beef on the prosciutto and, using the baking paper, roll up the meat in the prosciutto. Once rolled, discard the paper and tie the prosciutto on firmly with kitchen string (in about four spots will do).

Put the beef on the pre-heated baking sheet with a couple of cloves of garlic, and cook for 30 mins (medium rare). Halfway through, add red wine to the tray. When the meat is done, allow it to rest for 5 mins. Tip any juices that are released by the beef, back into the tray, mix juices together and serve as a jus over the sliced beef fillet. Serve with greens and mashed potato.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Even The Kids Like Oven-Roasted Broccoli

I am a great fan of broccoli, and always have been. I am happy to eat it hot or cold, in salads or pasta, and feel that it is a great bonus that it is really good for you as well as being really delicious. I do, however, also understand that the rest of the world does not necessarily feel the same way. And, unfortunately for me, I did not pass on the broccoli-loving genes to the darling daughters. For a long time, I insisted that they ate (at least some of) their steamed broccoli, but it certainly wasn't something they wanted to have.

I have now come up with a solution to the broccoli dilemma - I roast it instead of steaming it. I saw a reference to roasting cauliflower on an old Martha Stewart show, and decided to try it with broccoli. It is fantastic. The roasted, slightly burnt bits become caramelized and crunchy, and the flavour is a lot more appetising than soggy steamed broccoli (and this from someone who likes steamed broccoli). And it is a really easy way to prepare it, especially when you have something else roasting in the oven at the same time.
Roasted Broccoli
Olive Oil
Herbs / Spices to taste
Preheat oven, and an oven tray to 200C. Slice broccoli thinly, so you have long flat pieces of stem with the florets on the stop. Also keep any little bits that fall off. Toss all the broccoli in a large bowl with sufficient olive oil to coat them. Season generously with salt, pepper and any other herbs / spices you would like to add. Toss in a teaspoon of sugar to help the caramelization. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet, and roast for about 10-12 minutes or until they are nicely browned.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bread Sauce For Roast Chicken

Regular readers would have gathered by now that I am very keen on a roast chicken as an easy family dinner. And I am loathe to mess with a good thing. But sometimes a little mess is a good thing (I've been arguing that point for decades now). And today I have found an addition for roast chicken, if you want to mess with it, that really makes the bird sing. Unlikely as it sounds, this magical addition is bread sauce from Mr Neil Perry? I know it looks like nothing special (apart from my poor photography skills, a camera crisis involving a leaking water bottle is to blame), but it is really wonderful.

In my mind, bread sauce is one of those ultra-traditional recipes that belongs with Yorkshire pudding as part of the English culinary heritage that never really arrived in Australia. I have made bread sauce before, but a slightly odd version with horseradish and melted cranberry jelly as the base, to serve with Christmas turkey. This version, which comes from "The Food I Love"
is beautifully introduced by Perry; he describes his first taste prompting him to wonder, "how could something so wonderful taste so good?" I can only agree.

Bread Sauce
80g day-old white bread
1 brown onion studded with 2 cloves
2 fresh bay leaves (I used dried)
1 mace blade (I forgot to buy)
500 ml milk
100 ml cream
30g butter
Remover the crusts from the bread, then whiz it in the food processor until it forms crumbs. Put the onion, mace, bay leaves and milk in a small saucepan so the milk covers the onion. Bring to the boil. Stir in the bread crumbs and simmer gently for 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Remove onion and spices and add the cream, then cook again for 5 mins. Remove from heat, then whisk in butter. Season to taste. Serve with any roasted poultry.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Devonshire Tea For Me - Scones With Jam and Cream

Scones with jam and cream are a lovely afternoon tea tradition that I love, especially at colder times of the year. Often referred to as a Devonshire Tea, because of a loose connection with a similar tradition in Devon in the UK, cafes and restaurants do a roaring trade. Even the local bread shops have jumped into scones with various flavours available. Unfortunately, I hate these scones - they are often the size of your head, and taste like something that should be bowled in cricket rather than eaten at tea.

Luckily making your own scones is incredibly simple, and quick. I like to make them quite small - stopping the insides from being quite as doughy as they might otherwise be. Serve them cut in half with either whipped cream, or double cream if you feel like being especially sinful. Strawberry jam is traditional, but any sort of jam that appeals to you will work.


1 3/4 cups flour

1 tbl baking powder

2 tbls sugar, plus extra for topping

1/2 tsp salt

100g unsalted butter, cold, plus extra for brushing

3/4 cup pouring cream, plus extra to serve

Preheat oven to 220C. Toss dry ingredients together, then rub in the butter. You can do this by chopping it into small pieces and literally rubbing the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, or you can mix it with a pastry blender.

Stir in the pouring cream until the mixture forms a ball of dough. Scoop up the dough and knead it gently for about 30 seconds on a floured surface. Roll it out gently (dust the surface with more flour if it is sticking) until it is about 2cm thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough (I prefer them to be about 5cm in diameter). Re-roll the scraps and cut them out as well until there is no more dough. Brush tops with a little melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Arrange scones to be at least 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake until puffed and golden, approx 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cold, with jam and cream.